Blog posts tagged "stross"

Slow Down Charlie! On Glasshouse and Merchant Princess

September 10th, 2006

Plot Spoilers Within

I really do love Stross’ work, he has several short stories that rank among my all time favorites, and his ideas are brilliantly silly, optimistic, and yet insightful.

But I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with his novel length work. He keeps making scintillating implicit promises as the works open that dissolve half way through into frothy substanceless confections.


I just finished Glasshouse. Nice handling of what a post-Singularity society means for identity, multiplicity, etc. Brilliant to see Curious Yellow emerge as a plot device. (though oddly nothing by way of acknowledgment of the original, at least that I noticed)

But the implicit promise is that if we read through the somewhat awkward handling of 1950s fasco-dystopia (a 2006 fasco-dystopia would have been more interesting), and the even more awkward handling of “gender issues”, we’re going to find out what the “Censorship Wars” payload was. Maybe I’m too dumb to read between the lines, but by my reckoning the book builds, and builds, and then just fell off a cliff without any resolution, and certainly without delivering on answering that one big question.

Merchant Princess

Similarly Stross made us a promise that we were going to get ring side seats to watch Miriam go modern on the past’s collective mercantilist ass. Thats what I paid my ticket to see, a sort of what-if, “terra-forming” novel for capitalism, the game you always wanted to play with Civilization, but were never able to. The political viking in-fighting is fine and all for a couple of pages, but the story of the princess, the arranged marriage, and the evil prince really never needs to be told again, with or without blunderbusses.

So maybe slow it down? 10 novels in like 2 years might be pushing it a bit hard? I don’t know much about the economics of writing, but I’ll happily sign a petition to get you bigger advances, but take more time on the next couple.

That said, I’ll be buying Jennifer Morgue when it comes out. Call me a sucker.

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The Golden Age

September 6th, 2004

If John C. Wright accomplished nothing else, with The Golden Age, except construct a universe in which the following exchange was sensical and relevant, he would have achieved a major coup

“Do you see him?”
“No, mistress. But I see a fat man dressed as Polonious. Unless I miss my guess that is the segment of me with Phaethon.”
“But it doesn’t look like you…”
“Ah, but look at where his robes touch the grass.”
“Webbed feet?”
“Any man with penguin feet must be me! I’d recognize myself anywhere. Should I blast him with my heat ray?”
However he does so much more.

I also liked this little exchange when our viewpoint character discovers his privacy has been invaded

“How dare you monitor my brain activity without permission?! Have you no concern for privacy?”
“The privacy curtain was not in use. Kirlian auras and chakra-energy broadcasts are visible.”
“Not in the real world. No such sense perception exists.”
“Aura-reading sense perceptions are allowed by the Revised Aesthetic Standard. You prefer the Consensus Aesthetic? Apologies are rendered.”

Not quite sure how he is going to keep it going for 3 books, but Wright definitely (not to mention defiantly) proves that it’s possible to write compelling post-Singularity fiction.

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Writers Bloc

May 27th, 2004

I’ve made a handful of passing references over the years to the genre I call “New Wave Socialist Scottish Sci-Fi” of which the principle proponents are Iain Banks and Ken Macleod, but also Charlie Stross, and (though he comes from a bit farther south) China Meiville. While there is some obvious accuracy to the moniker, I mostly used it to amuse myself, and as a way to speaking about this group of authors who are currently producing some of the most interesting, amusing, creative and yet relevant literature anywhere.

However reading Stross’ blog this evening, I found that there is significant truth to my turn of phrase. Checkout the Edinburgh Writers Bloc. They’ve got a whole movement going on up there. (no word on whether they do their readings in balaclavas)

p.s. it’s worth clicking through to read the related entries on this post.

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